By on December 25, 2008

China is sick and tired of the bad crash test rap their cars receive abroad. Many of them, a few years ago, were really bad. To remedy this, China established their own Automotive Technology and Research Center (CATARC) in Tianjin, which smashes new cars for a living. The standard they use is the Chinese New Car Assessment Program, or C-NCAP. According to China Daily, C-NCAP “is similar to Euro-NCAP.”

Gasgoo reports now that “China’s domestically made cars are making progress in terms of safety.” Homegrown Chery A3 (shown in the video) and SAIC’s sortof homegrown Roewe 550 received five stars at CATARC. Six stars would be best, and so far, only one, the Hongqi, received top honors earlier this year.

Amongst the joint ventures, the China-made Mercedes-Benz C200, and FAW-VW’s New Bora also received five stars.

The Chinese are quick studies: In the two years the center has been in operations, the proportion of five-star cars rose from a horrendously low 8.3 percent in 2006 to 36 percent in 2007 and to 46 percent in 2008. Still, in 2008, more than 30 percent of all tested models limped out of the testing lab with only two or three-stars.

Now, “similar to Euro-NCAP” isn’t “same as.” The devil is in the details, especially in crash testing. We’ll see how they fare with a Euro-NCAP, which will be much tougher in 2009.

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13 Comments on “Crash And Learn: Chinese Homegrowns Get Safer...”

  • avatar
    Rev Junkie

    Well, maybe in about 5-10 years when the Chinese cars meet stricter European crash and emission standards, and possibly, stricter still US crash and emission standards, the Made in China stamp will find its way into the auto industry. The question then is, would any sane person buy one, besides for the novelty of it?

  • avatar

    I wouldn’t trust a Chinese government test lab’s numbers unless they are confirmed by American or Euro labs.

  • avatar

    Bertel, one has to question the need to improve crash worthiness of Chinese cars. Does it really so important for Chinese consumer? Do you see any demand from market place for a safer car? There are 1.2bn Chinese and almost a 1 bn Indians and it is the largest growing market. Does it make sense large investment into safety worthiness for European market (I think less then one car per family and longish replacement cycle) and US market of 300 millions? Is crash worthiness government stipulation or a market demand?

  • avatar

    well, That’s nice…
    one less mangled meatbag at the wheel.

    Despite that It’s not enough to get me into the seat of a Chinese vehicle. They still need to do a lot of work like, not plagarizing other cars styling oh and of course the emissions and etc too.

  • avatar

    When the metric is to build to a price point, you get what you pay for.

    The Chinese really are capable of building to pretty much the same level of quality any other country is. No, they can’t (yet) be as innovative as some others. No they don’t have the infrastructure to do some cutting edge manufacturing.

    The whole point of all the cheap stuff they have made is that it is made to be cheap.

    Underestimate your competition/enemy at your own risk.

  • avatar

    After the very recent Toy, Milk and Pet Food scandals, I think anything that depends upon the Chinese governments stamp of approval is immediately without credibility.

    Until the vast corruption that make Illinois look squeaky clean, anything made in China needs to be independently verified.

  • avatar

    The Hongqi? Shaft would not drive one of those but they are sure to be a big hit with suburban whites.

  • avatar

    Bertel, one has to question the need to improve crash worthiness of Chinese cars. Does it really so important for Chinese consumer? Do you see any demand from market place for a safer car?

    I don’t have hard data on this. Really hard data is really hard to come by in China.

    Here’s my gut talking:

    As an emerging car nation, Chinese are interested in price and reliability. As Chinese, they are interested in “face:” How does this car/brand make me look? The Chinese are as brand conscious as we were in the 50’s.

    As drivers, they don’t appear to me as very safety-conscious, sometimes more like suicidal. Most embassies recommend to their citizens to let the driving be done by Chinese.

    However, like we all, the Chinese think what they are taught. Recently, “crash-worthiness” has become a meme in Chinese media and advertising. You see crash videos on TV. I spent most of my life in car advertising, and we never showed the sausage factory when we sold a sausage. But suddenly, you can’t watch TV or walk through an airport without a barrage of “5 star crash rating!!!!!”

    IMO, the biggest driver to improve the safety of Chinese cars is export. All first waves of exports to developed markets like the USA or Europe were obliterated by some well placed and gruesome crash videos. Recently, Russia, heretofore a nice export market for Chinese cars, did the same, now that they have the beginnings of a domestic car industry. China is the #2 car market in the world, but they are nobody in exports. In 2009, if US car sales remain at the current annualized 10m, China may actually overtake the U.S., and become the world’s largest car market, 10 years earlier than prophesied. (The largest car market with more than 20m cars is the EU, but as long as nobody counts it that way, it doesn’t count.) The lack of meaningful car exports irks the Chinese to no end. The Chinese industry must export high value-add products. The key to this is compliance with the standards of their target markets. It looks like China has its sights set on the more than 100 countries that have adopted ECE regulations. The Chinese CCC regs are a virtual mirror image of ECE, and as the article stated, C-NCAP is “similar” to E-NCAP. The new Chinese export promotion programs stress compliance with foreign standards and offer assistance to do so.

  • avatar

    @porschespeed: No they don’t have the infrastructure to do some cutting edge manufacturing.

    OH, they do. Ever been in a modern JV plant? The Germans, Austrians, Swiss and the U.S. are more than willing to sell them their manufacturing technology.

    I agree with you on the price issue. The first thing a Chinese manufacturer will ask you for are tight specs. If you have them, you will get according product. If your only spec is “low price,” then you will get a low price.

  • avatar

    I must echo the above skepticism of any stat coming out of China. There is no such thing as an independent lab, or anything else in China. As soon as the bosses want a report changed, it will happen. Maybe in another ten years, after they have been playing nice, I might believe them. Until then, I would wait for confirmation if safety were an important decision maker for me.

  • avatar

    China couldn’t sell me any car that they could possibly make. I don’t trust the quality at all.

    Its funny – I’ved lived in China 3 years total and I can name a bunch of Chinese companies but in America, there isn’t a single Chinese major brand name – unlike Japan which has SONY, Mitsubishi, etc,etc.

    Chinese citizens hate Chinese made things. They perfer to buy American, rather than Japanese cause they HATE the Japanese.

    Truth of the matter is, if china does what it does best and STEAL IDEAS from America, Japan and Korea, I think their quality will catch up pretty quickly. After all, even Hyundai was able to make a generation of sophisticated, competant cars…ending with the Genesis recently.

  • avatar

    It’s not all their fault that they build to a low price point – it’s the nature of their domestic market. They build cars their market can support.

  • avatar

    @flashpoint: Chinese citizens hate Chinese made things. They perfer to buy American, rather than Japanese cause they HATE the Japanese.

    You haven’t paid enough attention in the three years you’ve been in China.

    1.) Yes, they love imports (of any kind) if they can afford them. Because most can’t, they buy local. (Your Chinese girlfriend most likely told you she wants a real Gucci bag, the fake ones are for Western tourists.)

    2.) As far as cars go, they actually prefer German. Locally made and imported German brands lead the market. As of September, VW alone had 17.61 percent of the passenger vehicle market, with Toyota (9.62 percent) second, and Honda (9.07 percent) third.

    3.) The Chinese may have a historical dislike of Japan, but they know to separate jingoist feelings from their buying choices. If the numbers cited in #2 aren’t enough: 2008’s best selling sedan in China is the Corolla, leading the ubiquitous Jetta by a few thousand. My wife is Japanese, and she is treated everywhere in China with respect and courtesy.

    Lastly, you would be absolutely horrified if you would find out the number and kinds of parts in your American car that were actually made in China.

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